The Beatles songs George Harrison called his favourite
We’re digging through the Far Out Magazine vaults to bring you a selection of George Harrison’s favourite songs by his own band, The Beatles. After their disbandment, the ‘Quiet Beatle’ stayed true to his nickname when the question of the Fab Four’s greatest tracks came up, often avoiding the question entirely. Instead, he preferred to keep his eye on the future while his mind remained in the present — a gift few of us can boast.
However, if you do a bit of internet rummaging, you can arrive at a pretty solid list of some of Harrison’s favourite tracks from John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. It makes for a picture of the late, great guitarist that resonates to this very day as well as a killer playlist to boot.
George Harrison was a reserved man under the burning gaze of the public eye, the likes of which nobody had ever witnessed before. Not blessed – or perhaps cursed – with Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s quick-witted affability in front of the camera, Harrison always cut a quieter more mysterious figure of the early days of The Beatles. While the band were being mobbed by fans and consistently flashed by cameras, he honed his craft and began songwriting in earnest away from the view of his audience.
Though Harrison had begun life with the band as part of the songwriting team, he was soon pushed to the back of the queue with the Lennon-McCartney partnership dominating the band for many years, owing in large part to their incredible success. Soon enough though, Harrison contributed a plethora of songs to the Fab Four’s albums despite growing tensions.
We wanted to know, excluding his own, what were his most treasured Beatles songs. Unlike John Lennon, who was never afraid to speak his mind about The Beatles or, indeed, Paul McCartney who was often keen to claim the due credit wherever it was being thrown out, Harrison avoided dwelling too much on the past, especially when it came to his successes. It means ascertaining his favourite Beatles songs is no mean feat.
He did, however, once clearly describe his favourite Beatles album, “Rubber Soul was my favourite album,” he once revealed. “Even at that time, I think that it was the best one we made,” he added when reflecting on the iconic record in the ’90s. He wistfully recalled: “The most important thing about it was that we were suddenly hearing sounds we weren’t able to hear before. Also, we were being more influenced by other people’s music and everything was blossoming at that time—including us.”
Trudging through the internet’s varied archives and making a few jumps we can bring you a list of George Harrison’s favourite Beatles songs.
First up is a track from that album and a song he discussed in a rare interview with John Lennon back in 1974, the brilliant ‘Norwegian Wood’ because he “felt where it was coming from”. Harrison included it among his list of tracks “he really enjoyed”, also including ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ saying he preferred the “inventive” songs like ‘Eleanor Rigby’ the band produced in comparison to the pop smashes that gathered up their initial fame.
Next up is ‘Every Little Thing’, the McCartney-penned but Lennon-sung 1964 release. During the Get Back/Let It Be project the band briefly revisit the song. Amid the tension of the rehearsals and increased pressure, the group find relief in performing a number from their now-so-distant beginnings. Harrison describes it as “a good one” before starting to play the lick, McCartney joining in on vocals—a reminder of their humble beginnings.
Another track on the list of songs Harrison loved is ‘This Boy’. The 1963 song, released as a B-Side to ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ was likely one of Harrison’s more cherished tracks considering the footage of him watching it below. A post-Beatles George looks back to the band’s earliest moments and as well as smiling like a proud-as-punch father and joining in with the harmonies he turns to the camera and says: “It’s a good song though. A good song”.
As part of the promotion for The Beatles 1969 record Abbey Road Harrison’s picks out several tracks as some of the band’s best. It’s easy to suggest here that these comments, taken only a few weeks after the LP’s release, promote the album. But we’ll take them as face value as we’ve no reason not to trust the guitarist. One track from the album is ‘She Came In Through the Bathroom Window’ which during a track-by-track rundown of the album Harrison described as “a very good song of Paul’s with great lyrics.” There was further praise for ‘Golden Slumbers’ “another very melodic song of Paul’s.”
There were clearly two standout songs on the album in Harrison’s view though. He picked out ‘Because’ and heaped huge praise on the song saying it “is one of the most beautiful things we’ve ever done.” He also liked ‘I Want You, She’s So Heavy’ saying “This is good because the riff he sings is basically a blues…the middle bit is great,” it’s one of the more potent moments of pop on the record.
‘In My Life’ was one of the only Beatles songs that George Harrison played on his now-legendary 1974 tour with Ravi Shankar. He had performed his own Beatles numbers like ‘Something’ and ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ but ‘In My Life’ was the only song played from the Lennon-McCartney partnership so it’s safe to say it had a place in his heart forever.
What makes finding Harrison’s favourite Beatles songs so interesting is that, by and large, he rarely revisited the band outside of any promotional activity. Sure the Threeatles reunited for about five minutes but outside of that George Harrison gave up being a Beatle back in 1970. It means that his love for the band may have waned but it’s still safe to say that these were the songs that inspire dhim along the way.
Below we’ve pulled together a playlist of some of George Harrison’s favourite Beatles songs ever. Let us know in the comments which ones we have missed.